Leading UK supply chain company Century Logistics warns Christmas shoppers to buy presents as soon as possible as weather experts predict early snow fall – despite the Indian summer that the country is currently enjoying.
Currently the UK is basking in an unexpected heat wave, but forecasters expect the weather to turn before the end of the week and snow is predicted to fall throughout the Christmas period.
Century, which counts 60% of its customers as online retailers, made the warning after shoppers were last year left disappointed when deliveries to warehouses, shops and homes were delayed as ports, airports and roads were closed because of winter blizzards.
Last minute online shoppers were particularly hard hit by the delays.
Century Logistics Managing Director Stephen Basey-Fisher says: "The internet is a great way to do your Christmas shopping as it can save you time and money and there is often a wider range of products to choose from.
"But we recommend that shoppers make their purchases as early as possible in case the weather does cause disruptions to retailers’ supply chains.
"This is especially true for those buying goods online as this type of shopping is often left until the very last minute and the amount of time it takes to deliver is sometimes forgotten."
Basey-Fisher’s warning comes with just 82 days until Christmas day.
"We can make sure our warehouse inventories are fully prepared in the run up to Christmas, but blizzards can result in parcel companies struggling to make the final delivery," he adds.
"But we are already in contact with our carriers to make sure they are fully prepared should bad weather strike as predicted."
Basey-Fisher says the November-December period was already the busiest time of year for online and high street sales, which means supply chains were already under pressure.
Figures from global e-retail organisation Interactive Media In Retail Group (IMRG) and technology consultant Capgemini showed that online retail sales hit £5.46 billion in December 2010, an increase of 17% compared with the same month the previous year.
Meanwhile, overall retail sales by value in December 2010 increased by 0.9% compared with November, according to the Office for National Statistics, although this was lower than expected as the winter weather stopped shoppers making it to the high street.
Basey-Fisher’s warning comes as weather experts forecast another year of difficult weather conditions.
Long-range forecaster James Madden from Exacta Weather warns he expects to see signs of moderate to heavy snowfalls as early as October or November in certain parts of the UK.
He expects November, December, January and February to feature largely below-average temperatures across many parts of the UK, and it is likely that temperature and snowfall records will be broken within this time frame.
Another forecaster, from Netweather, Paul Michaelwaite, warns widespread snowfall could be seen as early as November.
In December last year, blizzards resulted in large sections of the M25 being closed, leaving hauliers stranded overnight, as parts of the UK saw up to 76cm of snow and temperatures plunged to -19c.
Kent was virtually cut off from the rest of the country, while a 32km stretch of the M8 was closed for 48 hours because of snow and ice.
Heathrow and Gatwick airports were also closed for a couple days because of the weather, while the UK’s busiest container ports, Felixstowe and Southampton suffered with delays.